Sealy sees need to tread carefully
Tourism Minister Richard Sealy expects the economic turmoil in Europe and in the United Kingdom (UK) will affect Barbados’ tourism next year, but he believes the UK will again be the island’s main source market for visitors.
Sealy pointed to signs of hope for a brighter tourism future as he launched Tourism Week, but warned against bringing out the champagne too early.
Speaking at the launch of Tourism Week at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion Hotel yesterday, Sealy said the UKs economic dificulties went far beyond the controversial air passenger duty being imposed on Britsh travellers, since many of the people being affected by the measures were from the market from which Barbados sourced its visitors.
Commenting on the impact of the local increase of Value Added Tax on hotels, Sealy predicted the 2.5 percent increase on goods and services would have “a minimal impact”, while maintaining there had been no increase of the 7.5 per cent tax imposed directly on hotels.
Stating that the 2.5 per cent increase would have to be absorbed “for the time being”, Sealy noted that government’s options were “very limited”.
He acknowledged there was concern in the hotel sector, but suggested that “the alternative is worse” and encouraged hoteliers to work through the adjustment programme in the interim.
He reported an increase in visitor Arrivals over 2009 which he said was encouraging, but he added there remained “significant challenges ahead”.
He pointed out that Barbados was “forging into continental Europe” while recording a 15 percent increase in arrivals out of the United States. He also described Canada as “a succes story”.
“There is some encouragement, but there is still further work to do”, the Minister said, but cautioned that “we still have to be careful in making sure we deploy our resources and get ourselves going in the right direction”.
He saw commitment to service excellence by people in the tourism industrty as a means of weathering the storm, and the way of “total recovery”.
Meanwhile, the Minister reported the sports tourism fusion was a niche market that was working for Barbados.
According to him, Barbados was now one of the leading sports tourism destinations in the world.
Events such as the Banks Hockey Festival and the Run Barbados programme had become firmly established on the annual sporting calendar, while new events were coming on stream.
The Minister pointed to the prestigious Sentebale Polo Cup played here earlier this year, saying Barbados had established itself as a serious global player in polo, with four or five polo grounds in operation and another under construction.
He also listed yachting and other aquatic sports among the many that are attracting several visitors to the island.
Sealy credited the partnership between the Barbados Tourism Authority and the Cricket Legends of Barbados Inc. for the vibrant cricket programme, and he said he expected cricket would take the lead in sports tourism.
“It is a fact that we are looking at sports tourism not only for the big sports, but those other sports that you may not actually think of at first blush, but those who can bring good numbers to Barbados.”